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One of the core concepts of my Indian rhythms book involves the use of five basic building blocks from which pretty much everything is
constructed. Here we will look at some of these units and use them in creating fill based ideas. The unit we will look at this time is this seven beat unit.

Example 1

If we start this on beat one in 4/4 it will fill up seven quarter notes before coming back on the beat after four repeats. Therefore, to use this in 4/4 as a fill we would need to add one quarter note or four sixteenth notes at the end. (Ex 2) I have indicated the phrase marks underneath and marked the 'end unit' with two asterix and the number of sixteenth notes. ( **4 )

Example 2

Then of course we could put the 4/16 ‘end unit’ at the beginning instead as in example 3. Here, I have indicated the 'prefix unit' as a single asterix along with the number of sixteenths. ( *4 ) The reason for the different terminology here is that the idea of 'prefix' and 'end' units is central to the shorthand I will employ later.

Example 3

Now with different prefixes and end units we can start to construct different rhythmic phrases. For now this is all on the snare drum but we would be looking to develop these frameworks into fills. The ideal scenario is for the 'prefix' to be a continuation of the time from whatever precedes this whilst the 'units' and 'end units' would become a fill around the toms or whatever.

Next we have a different configuration which involves a prefix of eight sixteenths, then three of our 7/16 units and then the 'end' unit is 3/16 to fill up our 4/4 time frame. Of course, it can be in any time signature.

Example 4

An easy way to write this in shorthand would be.

*8 / 7 7 7 / **3 This may seem a little mathematical in concept but
is a really great way to instantly have at hand lots of ideas in a simple format.

Next, *5 / 7 7 7 / **6

Example 5

One of the purposes of this particular system is to get to a position where one can improvise with this stuff on the fly. The ability to be able to hit into an odd repetitive phrase at any point in the bar and conclude and resolve on the first beat by adding a filler component at the end is definitely a good skill to aquire. For example hit in to a repetitive 7/16 phrase within 4/4 and as the first beat comes around add a different length unit to hit the first beat of the next bar. This is not something that would happen in Indian music at all but for fill concepts out of that idiom it is a good way to use the rhythmic units.

A summary of our shorthand;

1. A 'prefix' unit ( Abreviated as a single asterix + the unit
length in sixteenths, for example *7 )
2. The basic repetitive unit abbreviated as simply the number of
3. An 'End' unit ( Abreviated as a double asterix + the
unit length in sixteenths, for example **7 )

The rhythmic unit we will use next is five sixteenths long. Bear in mind, you can use any type of unit or phrase to repeat.

Example 6

Next up we will have a long prefix and repeat this unit straight four times. The shorthand would be. *12 / 5 5 5 5

Example 7

Now we will split the prefix and put some of this at the end. We are using building blocks so you can really do what you want with them

Example 8

Now lets use that and make the prefix as part of a paradiddle based groove, then some cymbal hits to emphasize the units and a faster triplet roll to wind up the 'end' unit.

Example 9

Any sort of combinations are possible. Use this framework below to create some other stuff.

*7 / 5 5 5 5 5

Example 10

Now we will look at a more groove based application using this concept. We will centre this around a five note sticking.

Example 11

Now lets get this on the hi hat and snare with a bit of bass drum in there.

Example 12

If we repeat this twice but on the second repeat bring the right hand over for a back beat on the snare. This can work in 5/4 but is also great in 4/4 as quintuplets.

Example 12.5

Now lets get this happening in 4/4 as sixteenths, not quintuplets. We will use a 'prefix' of eight, plus four phrase units and then an 'end unit' of four. Each combination throws up different rhythmic poetry. When developing these ideas some things work and some things don't so it is really a process of experimentation.

Example 14

We could actually understand this better when we see all the individual components rather than written straight in 4/4

Example 15

Remember that these are building blocks and you can experiment and do what you want with them. Below we have it jumbled up again. Remember our shorthand from the previous articles? It would look like this.

5 5 / *8 / 5 5 / **4

Example 16

This whole concept could go in a million different directions and it is down to your own imagination. This is just the departure lounge!

Now we will develop our concept of phrases into odd time signatures. I often get asked about methods and techniques for playing in odd time signatures. This is as we all know very common in Indian rhythm.

Because of the way they construct a lot of their rhythm work it actually becomes irrelevant whether they are in an odd time signature. For example, if ones concepts include additive rhythmic building blocks within 4/4 then it is less of a leap to use these in other time signatures. For example, 9+9+9+5 (32) in 4/4 is not radically different from 9+9+5+5 (28) in 7/4.

Besides this, it is important to slowly add to your concepts and frameworks within odd time signatures. It will always be more of a challenge to improvise freely over odd time signatures than even but the more material we have at our fingertips then the easier this will be.

Lets start in 7/4. We are looking at concepts here mainly for developing fills but these can also be used for groove and rhythm constructs. Lets look at our bar of 7/4 and use the first two quarter notes as the count off period where one will continue with whatever groove is being played. If we count off two quarter notes then we are left with five quarter notes which could for this example be divided as 4 x 5/16.

Here is the basic skeletal structure.

Example 17

Here we have it on kit with some time in the first portion and a more fill based approach to the second part.

Example 18

Next we will do a similar thing in 5/4. (I have notated it in 10/4). First the skeletal structure divided as 3 /4 + 7/4.

Example 19

And finally we see it orchestrated with a sticking for the drum set.

Example 20


"You were born an original; don't die a copy."



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